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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Brazil Arms Tour

MOSCOW (AP) -- Visiting Brazilian Defense Minister Geraldo Quintao conferred Tuesday with Russian military officials on prospective arms deals, including a $700 million Brazilian tender for new fighter jets.

Sukhoi and MiG are both competing in the Brazilian air force's tender in a tense battle with U.S.-based Lockheed-Martin, France's Dassault, Anglo-Swedish Saab-BAE Systems and the Eurofighter consortium.

Sukhoi is offering Brazil its top-of-the-line Su-35 fighter along with production technology, Itar-Tass quoted company chief Mikhail Pogosian as saying. Quintao, who arrived in Moscow on Monday, is set to visit the air force's flight test center in Zhukovsky outside Moscow on Wednesday to see the Su-35 in action, Interfax reported.

Quintao and members of his delegation are also expected to visit several defense plants in Moscow and St. Petersburg during their visit to Russia, which continues through Friday.

No Currency Changes

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The current level of mandatory hard currency sales by exporters is unlikely be changed in the near future, Itogi quoted Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying Tuesday.

"There will be no such a revision in the near future," Kudrin said.

New Central Bank chairman Sergei Ignatyev had called in March for canceling such mandatory sales in the future, but said the issue should be handled carefully, adding that any decision should be made only after a thorough analysis.

Kudrin also said the Finance Ministry's "financial reserve", which it began to accumulate last year, currently totaled 81 billion rubles ($2.6 billion).

Russia is due to pay about $16.2 billion in foreign debt in 2003. He excluded the possibility of Russia defaulting on its debts or devaluing the ruble in the near future.

Kudrin also said the government did not plan to change the 13 percent flat income tax rate.

$100M Vietnam Loan

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Cabinet has approved a $100 million low-interest loan to Vietnam to finance the construction of two hydroelectric power plants by Russian companies, the government said in a statement Tuesday.

The loan will be provided over the next five years on an annual rate of 4.25 percent. Vietnam will repay it from 2008 to 2015, according to the text of the loan agreement released by the government.

An agreement to build the plants was signed during Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's visit to Vietnam last month. The Pleikrong and Se San 3 power plants will be built in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

High Targets 'Risky'

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Higher targets for Russia's economic growth may turn out to be risky for the budget, Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Tuesday.

He said planning the budget policy based on a higher pace of economic growth is "risky and dangerous" and may lead to additional budget problems.

However, Dvorkovich said that the Economic Development and Trade Ministry is ready to accept higher economic growth pace as a base, provided that authorities continue reforms.

EBRD Plugs Putin

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Russia under President Vladimir Putin has shown a firm commitment to seeing through economic reforms long advocated by Western governments and bankers, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development president Jean Lemierre said in an interview published in The Washington Times on Tuesday.

Lemierre was quoted as saying that Russia under Putin has improved its political and corporate governance, while tackling corruption more seriously than at any other time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"The EBRD welcomes the reform strategy being pursued. This is because of the clear strategy President Putin has set for the country, and its decision to pay its international debt without going to the International Monetary Fund," Lemierre said. "However, the bank recognizes that implementation of the reform program … will not be easy."

LUKoil in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) -- No.1 oil group LUKoil signed Monday an exploration contract in Colombia covering a chunk of the same mountain chain where the country's largest oil fields are located, state-owned Ecopetrol said.

Ecopetrol said the contract, signed in Bogota by LUKoil Overseas Holding Ltd. president Andrei Kuzyayev, marks the first time the firm has joined an exploration venture in the Americas.

The contract covers nearly 300,000 hectares in northeastern Colombia along a mountain chain dubbed the Piedemonte Llanero, where the 300,000 barrel-per-day Cusiana-Cupiagua fields, Colombia's biggest, are also located, it said. Colombia has been racing to stave off becoming a net oil importer within the next several years.

Border Control

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Russia plans to tighten control over meat imports using the Federal Border Guard Service, Itar-Tass reported service spokesman Sergei Ivanchenko as saying Tuesday.

Ivanchenko said that the border guards had pointed out numerous cases of forgery of Russian health inspection certificates by U.S. poultry exporters. He declined give further details.

Last month, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow acknowledged that some U.S. poultry exporters had forged Russian veterinary certificates.

Ruble Firms

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The ruble firmed in official early trade Tuesday to a weighted average for today settlement of 31.1644 to the dollar from 31.1893 on Monday.

The average rate, set at a unified trading session of eight exchanges, usually serves as the basis for the Central Bank's next day ruble/dollar rate. Trade volume in the session rose to $82.77 million from $79.37 million on Monday.

Based on the unified session, the Central Bank set the next day rate at 31.1644 rubles to the dollar.

For the Record

Sberbank signed a 250 million euro agreement with Germany's AKA Ausfuhrkredit, a credit export agency representing 32 banks, on Tuesday in Weimer, Germany, Interfax reported. (MT)

Russia plans to modernize the Slovak air force's Soviet-built MiG-29 fighter jets to pay off part of its debt to Slovakia, officials said Tuesday. (AP)

No.1 carmaker AvtoVAZ has discontinued shipments of cars to its dealers under deferred settlement schemes, the company said Tuesday. AvtoVAZ said the move is part of the company's overhaul of its distribution network. (Prime-Tass)

Gross domestic product grew by approximately 5.5 percent in 2001, Interfax reported an OECD report as saying. (MT)

Zenit bank posted a pretax profit of 42.7 million rubles ($1.37 million) for March, up from 15.5 million rubles in February, the bank said Tuesday. Its assets rose by 2.3 billion rubles during the first quarter to a total of 22.3 billion rubles. It posted a pretax profit of 511 million rubles in 2001. (Prime-Tass)